Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Neo-Luddism and the case against online gaming

Last week, I played in Chris' inaugural Stormbringer Domain Hack Game Thing under the guise of an inept beggar named Johan, Sheik of the Sighing Steppes. Inept in the sense that his stats were rather poor, in all ways, compared the rest of the group, but for whatever reason was able to strike the killing blow against a giant tiger-beast and escape militant apes due to a high aptitude in the arts of subterfuge. Overall, I had fun, even though I ran out of whiskey far too soon. However, a couple problems arose that caused my anti-technology rash to flare up, resulting in some contemplative analysis on my part to discern why exactly I hate online gaming. In this case, I specifically mean using the internet as a medium to facilitate tabletop gaming, whether it be Skype, Google+, GotoMeeting, whatever.

Obviously, there are very good reasons to use something like Google+. Most everyone I know has a family, job, life; all the crap none of us worried about when we were in college. Wednesday night gaming at 1AM is a thing of the past, scheduling is important. The need to go no further than a computer makes it much easier to arrange times, and not having to drive somewhere means better attendance. Accessibility is probably the reason most people do not game as much once they get older, it surely isn't for lack of interest. Online gaming makes it easy for larger groups of people to get together as there is less room for excuses (kids? I can see their crib from the desk). Okay, I get all that, but something is still lacking...


I know this sounds stupid, but the tangible effect of dice at the table cannot be understated. It's what makes a game a game as opposed to an exercise in amateur theatre. Online die rollers just don't cut it. Die-rolling moments always create suspense in rpgs and wargames, moving them to an electronic format removes some of the fun of rolling dice. Plus, knowing what I do about computers, there's no such thing as a truly random number generator unless you use something like Not that dice are truly random, either, but at least I can SEE what's going on. The black box approach isn't that appealing. Included with dice are minis, physical maps and other random props that always seem to creep into games. Chris was able to display his nice hex map on the screen, but to be perfectly honest, I prefer his hand-drawn stuff. I'm sure he could scan that stuff in, but nothing like the real thing. Being able to hold a document provides sensory information far beyond the simple visuals.

"Technical difficulties"

My laptop decided to crash right during the most important part of the game and I was unable to bring it to a working state before finally deciding to call it a night and go to bed. That really sucked. Unless you have a seizure or an aneurism during a table top session, you're not going to miss any of the action. This goes hand-in-hand with actual face time at the table, the ability to interject and make jokes. Communication is still not instantaneous enough through these technical mediums to allow a true exchange to take place. It's nothing like a CB, but often times I felt like the 1/2 second delay was enough to cause issues. Typically, half the time of any gaming session I'm a part of is spent fooling around, but the conferencing technology allows far less of that. That's unfortunate as the social aspect is just as important as the game itself. It not, then just play Ultima or something.

There are many other reasons I dislike online gaming, but in the effort to demonstrate my point I've decided to leave this incomplete as I need to go outside and get some sun. The glow of my monitor doesn't provide the sort of tan I'd like.


  1. I'm into cutting edge tech, but I think the day I stop gaming at a table with people present is the day I truly hang it up. No interest in that Google + thing at all. I scrape together the time to do a 3-4 hours session during the week twice a month. The tactile feel of the dice, a beer in my hand, the company of good folk who are so into the game they are willing to give up a night and travel to the hosts pad. I love all that. Don't want it to change. If it does, I'll stop doing it.

  2. Here, here! Online rpging is not that slick. I had tried running a S&W game on the forums and got frustrated that people constantly needed help with the concepts, as if I wasn't expressing myself well enough. Yeah, that minor in English really helped out.... :/